When actress Jada Pinkett-Smith took to Facebook to thump the media for cyberbullying young artists via the endless ridicule and flaw-finding expeditions, the media instantly downgrade her concerns by virtually dismissing her as “a Mama Bear.”
The actress wrote on Facebook: “This last week, I had to really evaluate the communication in regard to our young artists in the media. I was trying to differentiate cyber-bullying from how we attack and ridicule our young stars through media and social networks. It is as if we have forgotten what it means to be young or even how to behave like good ol' grown folk.”
“It seems very much like this was written from a Mama Bear and less from a celebrity,” said Alicia Mendez of Huffington Post Live during a discussion on Ms. Pinkett-Smith’s lengthy and well though-out Facebook posting on the subject. Alicia Menendez is a host and producer at HuffPost Live, The Huffington Post's streaming video network. According to her bio and that little shiv in the collective maternal ribs, I’m guessing she’s not a mom.
“I get what she’s trying to say, but they are public figures, and, being that, you have to report the news to all their fans. But we could do it differently,” added Huffington Post media reporter Leigh Blickley.
With all respect to Ms. Blickley and Ms. Menendez, I realize they were trying to walk the tightrope between injured party – as members of “the media” and entertainment reporting. Sadly, they were also far from the only media to take this approach to Pinkett-Smith’s comments.
I strive not to be one of those people who uses being a parent as a means of dismissing the opinions of those who aren’t, so this barrage upsets me and puts me in the position of having to go to the “Well you’re not a ‘Mama Bear’ so maybe you can’t ‘get’ it” realm.
It’s just not acceptable to dismiss, relegate, and downgrade a woman’s remarks by playing the “oh that’s just the mom in her talking” card. The mom in a woman is probably the part everyone ought to be coming from, even if that “mom voice” talking is the memory of one’s own mother.
This is doubly true when the topic is something as harmful and potentially life-threatening as bullying. It’s a not hard to see the problem when the audience for this parade of intolerance and denigration is our non-celebrity children who read and watch it online.
Pinkett-Smith has clearly met and exceeded her personal limit as a human (not a mom) for the mean-spirited way in which some online infotainment media attack young celebrities with the kind of ferocity that generates lots of page views by our kids and lots of snarky thinking too.
Therein lies the lesson in the actress’ posting. Our children may never become celebrities, but they are all exposed to the constant barrage of unfiltered, cyber nastygrams posted by some in the entertainment media. Their unchecked bullying of celebrities influences kids to bully the non-famous in much the same way.
When The Onion posted an Oscar night tweet aimed at Oscar nominee Quvenzhane Wallis, 9, using what I consider to be about the vilest slur on the female anatomy, their social networking skills jumped the mama shark and that’s a pretty dangerous stunt indeed.
The actress asks the same questions we, as parents, rhetorically ask schoolyard bullies: “Do we feel as though we can say and do what we please without demonstrating any responsibility?” In Pinkett-Smith’s anti-bullying manifesto she adds, “…simply because they are famous?”
“Why can't we congratulate them for the capacity to work through their challenges on a world stage and still deliver products that keep them on top?” Pinkett-Smith asked on Facebook. “We all know how hard it is to keep our head above water, even in the privacy of our own homes let alone on the world stage.”
The reason a bully can’t congratulate people who work through their challenges is because the challenges often come from the bullies themselves.
Let me pass what I once did when people were throwing stones at my autism spectrum child, both literally and figuratively. I picked up one of those rocks and took it home with us. Then I wrote a little thank you card and had my son give it back to one of the kids the next day in front of the boy’s parents who had watched the bullying and done nothing.
The note we gave back with the stone read: “Thank you for being my rock, the one in my road. The one I had to dig deep to get past. The one who taught me to climb in order to get over you. The one who marked my body and my way. This is so neither one of us forgets.”
I think that some of the stone throwers need to be sent this note and perhaps a pebble as an office paperweight to remind them just what they mean to us. My guess is that some of them would get so many that perhaps they would pave a different, better path to take – one leading to higher ground.